Some of the most common questions I get when I post about being an Athena or a Bariathlete are What do those terms mean? What are they?
An Athena athlete is a female athlete weighing greater than 165 pounds. This is an optional category for triathletes & runners, you can also choose to run in just your age range. Technically, I am a Master Novice Athena at the moment, which means I am over 40 years old (Master class), a Novice (in my first year of triathlons) and I am an Athena (I will never EVER be under 165 pounds, its an unhealthy weight for my build).
Bariathletes are people who have lost weight via bariatric surgery and are now competing in endurance events such as marathons, Ironmans, ultramans, Xterra races, centuries and now even extreme sports…like full contact steel combat 😛
It took me a very VERY long time to consider myself an athlete, and an even longer time to consider myself an extreme athlete but here I am. I am 51 years old, for the past 5 years I have been a fighter, a runner and now am currently training for my first triathlon in November 2018.
I have always been a big girl, there hasn’t been a time in my life I wasn’t a big girl, even when I lost over half my body weight. No matter how I change my body, whether its leaning down or building up muscle, I will always be big. I am 5’9 and have shoulders like a linebacker. My bone structure is large, my hands are the size of most men’s and I wear a 10.5 shoe.
I will never be petite. That is the one permanent fact about my body size and I am 100% ok with that. I don’t have a ‘petite’ personality either, which also suits me just fine. When I weighed over 450 pounds I always tried to find the path of least resistance, and if there was a way I could fold in on myself to make sure I didn’t take up any more room than I had to, I did it. But now, I take up space, I allow my presence to fill out an area, I like the freedom, the joy and the happiness that surrounds me and I let that radiate. To be a shrinking violet, goes against every fiber of my being now, and I wouldn’t change that, for anything. It took too much work to get to this point in my life.
So when I sign up for a race as an Athena, or when I use the hashtag #athenaathlete or #bariathlete, I use it proudly because I love being the woman that takes up space, who can lift whatever she wants, and relishes the fact that she is strong. As my best friend Kelli would say “Own it Girl” and trust me…I do!
Once I started delving into these subcategories of athletes, the fact that some folks didn’t like seeing Athena’s or Clydesdales (the male equivalent) entering races completely surprised me. Some people don’t think that fat kids run. Well I am here to tell you, we do! And we like it!!!
About 6 months ago I came across a runner named Mirna Valerio aka “The Mirnavator” and there was a story about how she had been shamed by posts on the internet for calling herself a runner, because she was fat. Many of the comments I read, have played over and over in my head, because I have heard them all my life. Yet here was a woman just posting about being proud of her athletic achievements and people were hateful. Downright spiteful in fact. Sadly, I wish I could say it shocked me, but it didn’t. I’ve heard many of the same comments thru the years.
Mirna used those comments and turned it around in so many positive ways, she just ran the Boston Marathon and she is an REI sponsored Athlete. She has written a book and has an amazing blog and I hope you check her out. She’s pretty awesome.
As for being a bariathlete, I will be the first to tell you, I was shocked that I ever wanted to run. But once my body figured out how to process the energy and chaos, it was literally, off to the races LOL! I constantly feel like I am revved up to 70 RPMS most of the time. Albeit that once I hit 50, it has slowed down a LITTLE bit, but a lot of that has been more ‘mental’ slowing down, even when I don’t want to. Usually though, once I start moving, my adrenaline kicks in and I feel amazing. I hope THAT never stops.
I spent the first 40 years of my life being sedate, overweight and slow. The last 11 years has been spent trying to figure out how to manage the chaos that is constantly flowing inside me. Finally, this 2nd half of my life is sort of evening out I think, so hopefully we will get a few more athletic accomplishments under my belt before I hang up my last medal.
All in all, no matter how I classify myself, I will always be an athlete regardless. I run, I bike, I swim, I fight. Who knows what else I will do before I die, but one thing is for sure, it’s not going to be ‘sit still’. That’s how you get old, and I while I may age, I never want to be old. I will fight that tooth & nail!
So whether you’re an runner, a biker, a swimmer or a walker…keep moving forward. THAT’S what matters the most. Figure out where you fit as an athlete and keep pushing! We all have a limited time on this big blue marble, make the most out of it!
Get up, get out and see it ALL – Spend the rest of your life celebrating!!!
The Badass Valkyrie